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Page last updated at 10:58 GMT, Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Keane not for sale, says Benitez

Rafa Benitez and Robbie Keane
Benitez bought Keane from Tottenham for 20.3m in the summer

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has insisted Robbie Keane will not be sold following reports linking the 20.3m striker with a return to Tottenham.

Keane was dropped for Saturday's 3-1 win at Blackburn and has come under pressure after scoring only four goals since arriving from Spurs in July.

But, when asked if the 28-year-old still had a future at Anfield, Benitez said: "Yes, why not?

"He will be here after the January window, it is not my idea to sell him."

He added: "We have confidence in him but he knows he's not playing to his true level.

"Robbie's future is to be ready, to score goals and to work for the team.

"The challenge is there for him. When you sign a player for a lot of money, that is it. He becomes another player in the squad and he has to fight for his position. Clearly he has to show character."

With Keane struggling to adapt to Anfield life and the January transfer window approaching, some newspaper reports suggested Benitez may look to cash in on the misfiring Republic of Ireland forward, who has been linked with a return to Spurs under new boss Harry Redknapp.

Benitez, however, was keen to play down the situation with Keane - who has only completed the full 90 minutes for Liverpool on three occasions - and pointed to the example of strikers at other clubs.

"People are going on about the fact that he didn't play at Blackburn but we had Dirk Kuyt up front and Ryan Babel playing as a striker on the left," he commented.

"I said before Blackburn that no-one can be guaranteed a place, that you decide on which system and players will give you the best chance of controlling each fixture.

"Carlos Tevez scored four goals for Manchester United last week but didn't start against Sunderland, yet there isn't the same debate about that."

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After Spurs beat West Ham 2-0 on Monday, Redknapp played down reports linking him with former Leeds and Inter Milan striker Keane.

"I love Robbie Keane, I think he's a great player and its a shame he's not here," he stated.

"But he belongs to Liverpool and until the day they decide they want to sell it would be unfair to talk about him.

"As a player he's top class - and as a person around a football club he's a great character."

Keane's last action for Liverpool resulted in him being taken off, after 66 minutes, for the 15th time this season in the draw with West Ham on 2 December after which Benitez conceded: "Robbie is a better player than the one we are seeing now.

"He gets disappointed when things are not going his way. He is a worker but can improve. He will be OK."

With Fernando Torres sidelined through injury, Keane is expected to be handed the task of leading Liverpool's attack in their final Champions League Group D match away to PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday.



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see also
PSV v Liverpool
08 Dec 08 |  Europe
Benitez anger at pay rise claims
08 Dec 08 |  Liverpool
Benitez sure Keane will deliver
02 Dec 08 |  Liverpool
Keane believed goals would come
10 Nov 08 |  Liverpool
Liverpool 3-0 West Brom
08 Nov 08 |  Premier League
Ramos rues Keane & Berbatov exit
28 Oct 08 |  Tottenham
Torres expects Keane to come good
19 Sep 08 |  Liverpool
Liverpool complete Keane transfer
28 Jul 08 |  Liverpool


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